Egoless design

A number of years ago I wrote a series on design heuristics that emerged by looking at our cognitive limitations and practices from other field. One of the practices I covered briefly in one of the posts was egoless design, and a recent conversation reminded me of it.

The context for this is talking about how to improve our designs.  One of the things from Watts Humphrey’s work on software design was that if we don’t scrutinize our own work, we’ll have blindspots that we’re unaware of.  With regular peer review, he substantially improved code quality outcomes.  Egoless programming was all about getting our ego out of the way while we worked.

This applies to instructional design as well.  Too often we have to crank it out, and we don’t test it to see if it’s working.  Instead, if it’s finished, it is good.  How do we know?  It’s very clear that there are a lot of beliefs and practices about design that are wrong. Otherwise, we shouldn’t have this problem with elearning avoidance.  There’s too much bad elearning out there. What can we do?

One of the things we could, and should do, is design reviews. Just like code reviews, we should get other eyes looking at our work.  We should share our work at things like DemoFest, we should measure ourselves against quality criteria, and we should get expert reviews.  And, we should set performance metrics and measure against them!

Of course, that alone isn’t good enough. We have to redesign our processes once we’ve identified the flaws, to structure things so that it’s hard to do bad design, and doing good design flows naturally.  And then iterate.

If you don’t think your work is good enough to share, you’re not doing good enough work. And that needs to change.  Get started: get feedback and assistance in moving forward.  Just hearing talks about good design isn’t a bad start, but it’s not enough. You’ve got to look at what you are doing, get specifically relevant feedback, and then get assistance in redesigning your design processes.  Or you won’t know your own limitations.  It’s time to get serious about your elearning; do it as if it matters. If not, why do it at all?

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